While good or effective writing is sometimes open to reader interpretation, college English and writing experts provide common tips on consistently high-quality writing. Developing strong writing skills is essential to success in secondary schools and college, as well as in many professions -- not just in writing careers, but also in business or office jobs.
Understanding of Purpose
Good writing usually begins before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Identifying your audience is a key first step in planning. For an essay in an English class, the target is the teacher who evaluates your writing abilities. In a persuasive report, your target is the theoretical audience to whom your message speaks. As a newspaper or magazine reporter, your audience is the readership looking for information or entertainment. A book author provides insights on a subject or a compelling story. You also need to establish the subject or premise of your writing to help provide direction.
Clarity and Conciseness
Good writing is clear and concise. Tell your story, construct a paragraph or form a sentence in the most efficient way possible. Unnecessary words, phrases or statements can interrupt flow and distract the reader from your key points. Clarity is closely related. With concise, articulate and cohesive sentences and paragraphs, you have a better chance of readers understanding your message.
Organization and Structure
Good writing is well-organized and structured. The formal structure varies considerably based on whether you write a paper, dissertation, poem, article or book. However, similar principles apply. Organization begins with an outline of your work. Establish a subject, theme and thesis, or major point. Outlining each section or point within the work helps ensure the end product is cohesive, logical and effective. In a single paragraph, paper or larger work, a simple outline includes a beginning or lead, supporting sentences or sections and a conclusion.
Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation
No matter how well-organized, articulate and effective the structure and arguments in your paper or story, lack of attention to detail can ruin your effort. Foundational elements of good writing include correct spelling, proper grammar and sentence structure and appropriate use of punctuation. Fragmented, incomplete sentences and run-on sentences are common errors in student papers.
While many elements of good writing relate to the technical process, top writers often have elegance. Elegance is the ability to present clear main points, offer thorough, eloquent supporting descriptions, avoid redundancies and use proper language. Depending on your target audience, slang or colloquial language may work best in less formal works. Proper language and avoidance of slang are more appropriate in formal papers or publications.
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